22 December 2022

A new soil app from India can teach you climate-smart agriculture

Helping farmers and decision makers in developing climate-smart practices in soil management. That’s the goal of MRIDA, the new app created in India to assess the carbon sequestration potential of different agricultural strategies

by Matteo Cavallito

 

MRIDA, which means soil in Hindi and is also the acronym of Managing resources for integrated development of agriculture, is the name of a new app designed to enable its users “to conduct a detailed and rigorous assessment of agricultural management practices for their potential to sequester carbon.”

Created by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an organization based in Patancheru, India, the tool is intended as a resource designed for both farmers and policymakers. Both of them, says Jacqueline Hughes, director general of ICRISAT, are currently called to develop “soil management practices in the face of climate change.”

Managing soil while considering climate change

The goal of the app is to raise farmers’ awareness of four key elements: fertilizer, crop selection, biochar application and irrigation. “Based on the season, they can make their selections and ascertain organic carbon and yield output,” said Mangi Lal Jat, director of the global research program, Resilient Farm and Food Systems, ICRISAT. “The recommendations will help them make better on-farm decision.”

Inspired by chess, MRIDA was developed over three years with the goal of creating a real game to stimulate the adoption of climate-smart practices. In other words, that means Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). Or a set of strategies that can protect agricultural activities by mitigating global warming.

Climate smart solutions

FAO, in particular, defines CSA as “an approach that helps guide actions to transform agri-food systems towards green and climate resilient practices.” Designed in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals, the organization continues, this discipline “aims to tackle three main objectives: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.”

This kind of agriculture, in fact, cannot be described exclusively as a specific practice or technology that can be applied universally. Rather, it is configured as a strategy that requires the adoption of an integrated approach that takes into account specific local conditions. Such an orientation includes, among other things, some useful techniques such as crop rotation, the reuse of land left fallow, and the use of biofertilizers and biopesticides as alternatives to their counterparts made through synthetic chemistry.

The goal is to limit the use of chemicals in agriculture

Not surprisingly, the MRIDA application, developed from on field studies in five districts in the Indian state of Maharashtra and eight districts in Odisha is designed for this goal as well. “Indiscriminate use of fertilizers and other agro-chemicals deteriorates soil health and increase environmental footprints,” reminds Arvind Kumar, ICRISAT’s deputy director general of research.

“This app – he adds – will encourage farmers to explore and apply regenerative agriculture practices and focus not just on yield output but also soil carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation. It will also educate farmers on carbon credits.”

In addition to providing support for farmers, ICRISAT sayst, the app is also designed for scientists. MRIDA, in fact, will also provide them data to understand the factors that influence farmers’ decisions.